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Q+A: Don Brash interview transcript

Published: 3:01PM Sunday April 24, 2011 Source: Q+A

Guyon Espiner interviews Don Brash.

GUYON Don Brash joins me now. Mr Brash, what are you playing at here? Do you want the party leadership of the ACT Party?

DON BRASH - Former National Leader
 Well, let's make it clear - my main motivation is deep concern about where the country is, and I'm disappointed by what the government is doing to deal with that.

GUYON Yes, and we know that they're spending too much money, and we can go into that soon, but let's talk& with respect, let's talk about what you want to do. Because we know that you don't like the government spending too much. We know a lot about your economic views, and we'll get to that. You'll have time to talk about that. Tell us what you're going to do.

MR BRASH Well, I looked around at the possibilities, and I thought, 'How can I best make a contribution to this situation?' And it seemed to me that the ACT Party was one vehicle through which I could work. It was suggested to me that I could become co-leader of the ACT Party, and on balance I decided that would not, in fact, help lift the ACT Party vote in a way that I think it needs to be lifted.

GUYON So you want to take the leadership?

MR BRASH I think that's the only way in which I'd be willing to join the ACT Party.

GUYON And how will you do that? Have you talked to caucus members? Have you got enough of the caucus members to physically take over?

MR BRASH Well, at this point, I certainly have not talked to most of the caucus members, and I simply&

GUYON Which ones haven't you talked to?

MR BRASH Well, I've talked to very few of them, to be quite frank. I've talked to Rodney Hide, of course, and I've talked to John Boscawen. I've not talked to any of the other members of the caucus.

GUYON So how on earth are you going to take the leadership of the party?

MR BRASH Well, I mean, this happened yesterday. I think it originated from a story in the Dominion Post where I said that I had been offered the position of co-leader of the ACT Party, and I said that I was not willing to accept that position, but I would be willing to accept the leadership. Now, the ACT Party board meet next Saturday.

GUYON And what do you anticipate might come from that?

MR BRASH Uh, well, I don't know the answer to that question.

GUYON But are you perhaps going to stand in the Epsom seat? What's your strategy?

MR BRASH Oh, again, that's all down the track. The first question is can I make a contribution to policy in this country through the ACT Party? And that's to be determined. I don't know the answer to that question yet.

GUYON Are you a member of the ACT Party?

MR BRASH Not at this moment, no, and Rodney Hide is quite right - I have to become a member of the ACT Party before I can even contemplate being leader. I accept that.

GUYON Are you going to take out membership of the ACT Party?

MR BRASH Well, that's again something to be dealt with this week.

GUYON You are going to look into that this week?

MR BRASH That's right.

GUYON Is John Banks involved in this? There's been some rumours that he might be involved also. Have you been talking with John Banks about this?

MR BRASH Well, John Banks and I have shared a board for the last three and half years, so I know John Banks very well indeed. I think he's a very impressive politician. He's certainly very popular in the Epsom electorate. Now, I don't want to speak for John in terms of what he would want to do in this election, but he's certainly a very popular person.

GUYON And you would work with him?

MR BRASH I would absolutely work with him, certainly.

GUYON This is a party takeover, isn't it? By a guy who hasn't joined the party yet.

MR BRASH Well, the question is how do we help New Zealand? That's the question. And the government is clearly off-track, not only in economic policy - you say you don't want to talk about that, but that's an important part of my motivation. They're not only overspending, they've given up on their objective of closing the gap with Australia.

GUYON And what's Rodney Hide doing about this, in your view? I mean, what's his performance like?

MR BRASH At the moment& I mean, Rodney Hide's been a personal friend of mine for more than 15 years.

GUYON  And now you want to roll him.

MR BRASH This is not about a personality thing. It is not about a personality thing. But it appears that under Rodney Hide's leadership, the ACT Party is polling around the margin of error. Now, the question is& I mean, that's a ridiculous situation. Its basic values are totally consistent with those of the National Party - limited government, personal responsibility and so on. And therefore, to me, it's a logical vehicle to make some changes. But let's leave economics to one side for a second. The whole question of the emissions trading scheme is another example. In Opposition, National said we should be fast followers, not world leaders. Yet we have the only all-gases, all-sectors ETS in place. Our biggest trading partners - Australia, China and the US - haven't yet begun on that track.

GUYON To make any real contribution, you would need to be a minister again. You'd need to get back into Parliament with the ACT Party and sit around the Cabinet table to actually put into effect some of these policies you're talking about. Is that your aim? Do you want John Key to give you a spot as a minister?

MR BRASH Well, again, I think that's a question to be decided, and I say that not facetiously, because one option, of course, would be sitting on the crossbenches.

GUYON And getting nothing done?

MR BRASH Well, well, well, people sit on the crossbenches&

GUYON You're worried about what influence ACT has had - at least they're in government.

MR BRASH But that is a positive and a negative, as you know, Guyon, as much as anyone. You can often achieve more from being on the crossbenches than being part of a deal, part of a government.

GUYON Cos John Key is probably gonna run a mile, isn't he? He ruled Roger Douglas out. Is he gonna want you?

MR BRASH Wait a minute, I was the former leader of the National Party. I came within a hair's breadth of winning the 2005 election. Why would he rule me out? I'm basically advocating policies which are absolutely consistent with a National Party platform.

GUYON Oh, I don't know, maybe because he ruled out just about every one of your policies in the 2025 Taskforce.

MR BRASH OK, but does that make him a good prime minister?

GUYON Well, I don't know, but do you think so?

MR BRASH Well, I personally am very disappointed in that. He came into power promising to lower the income gap with Australia. Again and again and again he said it, as I had said it before him. He comes into power, appoints a four-person committee&

GUYON And ignores them.

MR BRASH And ignores them.

GUYON Final question, cos we are short of time: are you going to go to that board meeting at the weekend, or at least put a submission up as to what your strategy's going to do? What should Kiwis watching today look out for for the next step from Don Brash?

MR BRASH Well, clearly, that's what I'd like to do, but I have not yet discussed that with the party president. I have spoken to the party president, of course. I have not yet talked about the possibility of making an appearance at the board meeting.

GUYON OK, bit of work to do. Thank you very much, Don Brash, appreciate your time.

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